Dear Colleagues-Friends:

One of the marvelous things about our medical school is its continuity in leadership. Our faculty build careers here, and our school benefits from their wisdom and experience. There is no better example of that than Joel Silverman, M.D., who is the longest serving chair in the medical school and the longest serving psychiatry chair in the entire nation.

After a remarkable tenure, Joel has announced his intention to step down from his role as chair, and we will begin a national search for his successor. Meanwhile, we are grateful he has agreed to continue to lead the department until a new chair is in place.

The Department of Psychiatry plays a vital role in our overall neurosciences academic portfolio. During his tenure, Joel has helped to make the neurosciences a top priority for the university and to assemble an outstanding cadre of neuroscientists and mental health clinical and educational leaders. He has recruited stellar faculty who have made advances in all academic areas of teaching our future practitioners, caring for their patients, making scientific discoveries and partnering with the community.

Under Joel’s leadership, half dozen endowed professorships were established in support of the work of dedicated faculty members. Additional endowments reward teaching, support the work of residents, fellows and researchers in his department. Joel, alongside his wonderful wife and life partner, Phyllis, has built deep relationships in the Richmond community that also benefit VCU’s mission and have enabled tremendous philanthropic support for mental health causes.

A past president of the American Association of Chairs of Departments of Psychiatry, Joel is known as an advocate for patients and for his fight against the stigma that’s too often associated with seeking treatment. His vision has won the backing of university leadership, legislators and our community. Just recently, Joel co-hosted a mental health ‘mini-university’ with Virginia’s legislature, and the Department of Psychiatry maintains several collaborations with public mental health systems and key partnerships.

During Joel’s tenure, the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics (VIPBG) was established, and as a result we’ve made dramatic advances in understanding the genetic and environmental causes of psychiatric and drug abuse disorders. Joel has been a great supporter and longstanding advocate for Dr. Kenneth Kendler, VIPBG director, and his team, in placing VCU on the forefront globally of psychiatric genetics.

In addressing the contemporary great concern about addiction, Joel and his team have developed an addictions program to grow research and clinical care in the field. Last year, the Department of Psychiatry opened the Motivate Clinic in its newly appointed outpatient facility in Jackson Ward. Joel also worked with the School of Medicine to bring to VCU the world-renowned addiction leader Dr. Gerry Moeller who leads the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies. The Department of Psychiatry has excelled in neuroscience and clinical research and currently ranks in the top 35 departments in federal funding nationally in psychiatry.

Joel’s career at VCU has been characterized by leadership by example, and he is a consummate educator and compassionate clinician. Joel has trained more than a generation of mental health clinicians, including most recently spearheading an above-national career selection rate for psychiatry among VCU’s medical students.

Among all his accomplishments, Joel’s leadership and partnership with community leaders to establish the newly opened Virginia Treatment Center for Children is a remarkable legacy. In this landmark $65 million, 119 square foot facility, patient care, teaching and research come together in an astounding, beautiful center, and all to serve the mental health needs of Virginia’s children.

Fortunately, we will not lose access to Joel’s wisdom and experience. He will remain on the faculty, continuing to teach and to see patients as well as to contribute his effort on the philanthropy front. As a personal friend of Joel’s for over 20 years, I look forward to continuing our work and friendship together.

This formal communication does not do justice to all the Department of Psychiatry has accomplished throughout Joel’s tenure. Accordingly, we invite you to a special grand rounds in the Department of Psychiatry on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Sanger Hall, room 1-044. Dr. Silverman will present on the accomplishments of his departmental colleagues and also highlight the exciting opportunities our future holds.

Please join me in congratulating Joel on a remarkable 43-year tenure (35 of those as chair) and in thanking him for all he has done to strengthen his department, our school and mental health treatment in our commonwealth and beyond.


Peter F. Buckley, M.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System